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Over 60 per cent of winter wheat is lost to drought in

A prolonged drought has left hundreds of reservoirs dry and tens of thousands of wells with little or no water in western and northern China, wiping out nearly two thirds of the winter wheat in the worst-hit areas and reducing spring planting, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization of the (FAO) said in a new alert.The worst-affected provinces are Yunnan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei, according to the agency. They are among China’s poorest, with rural per capita annual incomes in 2004 of $227 in Yunnan, $226 in Gansu and $283 in Ningxia. More than half of rural households live under the poverty line and have limited access to food, FAO said. Rural families in the drought-stricken areas have reduced the number of daily meals to two from three.In mountain areas of the affected provinces, there are few alternatives to agriculture as a source of income, the agency noted.In Ningxia province, where the drought started in 2004, some districts have received no significant rainfall in more than 600 days and over 60 per cent of winter wheat was reported as totally lost in the worst-hit districts. Some other areas have experienced a 40 to 50 per cent reduction in the harvest. In addition, only 30 per cent of the spring crops planned to cover 940,000 hectares were planted, FAO said.In Hebei province, the ground water level has fallen by more than half a metre while more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land have been severely affected, it said.

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